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What tow bar

steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 1,994
edited September 2018 in The hub
Before too long I will be getting a tow bar fitted to my Audi A5. I haven't even bothered to ask Audi for a quote as I just know they will be insanely expensive.

Any reccos for tow bars or tow bar fitting companies, or are they a commodity and I just Google the nearest one?

I know nothing about tow bars, so what should I look out for? I have seen some tow bars that are just a ball on an arm sticking out, others have plugs and stuff hanging off them. Are the plugs and stuff for caravans and trailers only, or will I need one for the bike rack as well?

I will be fitting a bike rack to the tow bar, at least a two up, maybe more.

I will not be towing a caravan, does that make a difference to what I need?

Thanks :)

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  • JBAJBA Posts: 2,628
    Try and find out which tow bar Audi would fit. Most car manufacturers just rebadge tow bars made by companies such as Witter and Westfalia and add a mark up to the price.
    Once you know which make it actually is do a search for one on-line and get it fitted by an independent. Something like THIS
    If you are only going to be using a tow bar-mounted bike rack then a single 7-pin socket is all that is needed for the tailboard lights.
    “Life has been unfaithful
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  • 898kor898kor Posts: 81
    edited September 2018
    Before too long I will be getting a tow bar fitted to my Audi A5. I haven't even bothered to ask Audi for a quote as I just know they will be insanely expensive.

    Any reccos for tow bars or tow bar fitting companies, or are they a commodity and I just Google the nearest one?

    I know nothing about tow bars, so what should I look out for? I have seen some tow bars that are just a ball on an arm sticking out, others have plugs and stuff hanging off them. Are the plugs and stuff for caravans and trailers only, or will I need one for the bike rack as well?

    I will be fitting a bike rack to the tow bar, at least a two up, maybe more.

    I will not be towing a caravan, does that make a difference to what I need?

    Thanks :)

    Its not quite the minefield you might imagine, you just have to break it down a bit, you are right though, manufactures know how to charge and even going cheaper isnt cheap on modern cars. The towball on my Audi Q7 was a £2,000 fit at factory option, yep £2k for a towball! However it is as cool as - press a button in the boot and out it comes electrically, press the button again and off it hides. Put a trailer on and the Audi reverse assist uses a number of sensors to allow you to reverse the trailer with the media rotary dial using the screen like a xbox (it does all the opposite lock turning for you), it is an epic system but Ive towed enough trailers in my time to be quicker than the cars system so I dont use it except for showing off. It even knows when a bike rack is fitted and not a trailer and turns off the trailer assist if its a bike rack.

    Generally speaking a Tow Ball is a tow ball. The capacity of what it can tow and handle in nose weight (downward force) is determined by the Manufacturer and a bike rack will not be near nose weight capacity. A quick google sees the Audi A5 at 1,700Kg tow weight and 100Kg+ nose weight (imagine the trailer balancing on its wheelbase pivot and what it pushes down on the towball). 2 bikes at say 16Kg (being generous I know) and a rack of 20Kg sees you only at 52Kg.

    With regard to electrics you used to have to decide what plugs you wanted. It used to be that you would get 7s and 7n UK tow plugs (N= Normal for the lighting circuit and S=Supplementary for things like caravan charging and reverse lights) but the 13pin Euro plug has won favour (quite rightly, better connectors and it can do both 7n and 7s in one plug) in the last decade or so but you can get adapters to convert from 7 to 13 or vice versa if needed.

    Modern vehicles such as your A5 require modern electrics unfortunately, long gone are the days of just splicing into the wiring loom to pick up the relevant lighting circuit - 99% of all cars and certainly your Audi will need a dedicated wiring loom (most cars these days are equipped with a socket just to plug the trailer loom into) and will probably need the magic boxes to be told you have towing electrics now. That said, as you are only fitting a bike rack and dont need the extra functions such as charging, reverse lights etc, there are is another option that fools the electronics (namely blown bulb indicators on the dash) which are much cheaper than the full blown loom but my personal preference is to do it right and proper

    My other car will probably interest you more as the decision to fit was only for the bike rack..... Merc E-Class - dealer fit tow ball and electrics was quoted as £1700 (apparently they can only fit them with a larger cooling fan etc and that needed a front end strip down) but using a local independent towball fitter he fitted a Westfalia (v. good make) detachable (good idea, saves shins) for £350 including connecting to the electronics and telling the car it now had trailer loom (worth doing as it does things like turn off fog lights to save blinding, turns off reverse sensors etc). The towball and loom cost about £400 from PF Jones - a good company to deal with.

    PF jones list the detachable with Audi specific wiring for £385 - you will find a local independent tow ball fitter who will do that for circa £250 to £300 Im sure. https://www.pfjones.co.uk/audi-a5-b8-sportback-8ta-2009-2017-brink-detachable-tow-bar.html take off £100+ if you go for the bypass wiring kit and not the dedicated loom.

    Go back a few years and it gets much easier and more enjoyable - my 1992 Toyota Landcruiser - had the towball steels fitted and electrics just tap off the loom - made my own variable height adapters etc (its essentially a stupidly high off roader) cost = pennys!

    With regard to the bike rack see this post from earlier today https://www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=10004&t=13095598 I have that bike rack and it has served me well. Its middle of the road as regard quality but its still going strong and holds the bikes well. The tilt function is almost essential, it lets you open the tail gate with the bikes fitted. The lights are built in and it the plug is 7n one side and 13pin euro the other. Real good value.
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  • FishFishFishFish Posts: 2,238
    You also need to inform your insurance company. With mine - Direct Line they did not charge and were not bothered but not having informed them of the tow bar and wahat you were using it for wopuld invalidate the policy (don't believe that but took it for granted.) On the next car after looking for quotes found Tesco classified it as a modification and would not quote!
    ...take your pickelf on your holibobs.... :D

    jeez :roll:
  • FishFish wrote:
    You also need to inform your insurance company. With mine - Direct Line they did not charge and were not bothered but not having informed them of the tow bar and wahat you were using it for wopuld invalidate the policy (don't believe that but took it for granted.) On the next car after looking for quotes found Tesco classified it as a modification and would not quote!

    As much as I understand this, I really hate it, why cant we all be allowed to grown up enough to drive the legal limit of towing (for those of us old enough not to have had to take a towing test :lol: )

    Nanny state.
    Bossnut V2
    Levo FSR Comp
  • 02GF7402GF74 Posts: 1,294
    It should be based on statistics. If they show car with towbar has higher rate and cost of accidents, then premium will go up for anyone else fitting a tow bar.
  • Steve,

    I got mine fitted in Leicester for £550. It's the same typre/brand as a VAG factory fit apparently (our cars are related as mine is a Seat). It's a swan neck detachable with dedicated electrics, so when you plug the electrics in, reversing sensors are turned off and it knows I effectively have a trailer on the back. Also tells me if I blow a bulb.

    Swan necks are meant to be less likely to set off your proximity sensors if you leave the bar on with nothing attached.

    I had no idea how much work went into it. They take the bumper off and replace the mild steel (?) cross member with a more rugged box steel designed. That get's bolted to the chassis and the towbar mount attaches to that. Apparently it is a bit heavier but it makes the back end a lot stronger. The cross member is rated to 80 kg and tow bar 140kg, so 80kg is my max load. Plenty for my carrier and 2 bikes.

    Mine was done in Leicester - it takes 3-4 hours to fit. Really good guys. Not all tow bar `specialists` are the same.

    I'm really pleased with mine and you've seen it in the flesh. Just makes travelling with a bike so much easier.

    You will also need the electrics as any decent bike carrier will/should have a light board with brake lights/indicators etc, as your car ones will be obscured by the bike(s).

    Drop me an email if you want any more info.
    "Ride, crash, replace"
  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 1,994
    edited September 2018
    I had not thought about the tow bar interfering with the sensors. Logical really.
    I can now see the benefit of those tow bars that disappear back under the car (never seen one of course!) Or is it my imagination, do they exist and are they much more expensive? And what is the proper name for them?
  • dabberdabber Posts: 1,621
    I had not thought about the tow bar interfering with the sensors. Logical really.
    I can now see the benefit of those two bars that disappear back under the car (never seen one of course!) Or is it my imagination, do they exist and are they much more expensive? And what is the proper name for them?

    Are you talking about removable towbars? With these you can simply take them off when the towbar isn't needed. Very quick and easy to do and when the towbar is off all sensors work in the normal way. Looks neater and the electics point folds out of sight as well. But more expensive I'm afraid.
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  • dabber wrote:
    I had not thought about the tow bar interfering with the sensors. Logical really.
    I can now see the benefit of those two bars that disappear back under the car (never seen one of course!) Or is it my imagination, do they exist and are they much more expensive? And what is the proper name for them?

    Are you talking about removable towbars? With these you can simply take them off when the towbar isn't needed. Very quick and easy to do and when the towbar is off all sensors work in the normal way. Looks neater and the electics point folds out of sight as well. But more expensive I'm afraid.
    I had not thought about the tow bar interfering with the sensors. Logical really.
    I can now see the benefit of those two bars that disappear back under the car (never seen one of course!) Or is it my imagination, do they exist and are they much more expensive? And what is the proper name for them?

    Steve - mine is removable/detachable and the electrics point/socket folds out of view then not in use. Still only cost me £550. :D
    "Ride, crash, replace"
  • figbatfigbat Posts: 680
    Similar experience to above. I had a removable swan-neck bar fitted to my Skoda Yeti - as above, the bumper was removed, the crash bar removed and the towbar mounting frame put in its place. My car already had the hole cut in the bumper; if yours doesn't there is usually a template for cutting and a frame to surround the whole to stiffen it and have a removable cover to pop on.

    I fitted the OEM electrics myself - a bit of faffing with interior trim removal, plugged into a dedicated harness already in the vehicle; the 13-pin plug is integrated into the towbar and stays hidden under the bumper when not in use. I then took it to the dealer to get the towing module coded. Before coding the basic functions will work (lights) and after coding the other things also work - switches off the rear sensors and foglight, enables bulb failure monitoring of the light board and also includes the lightboard in the security, so if the lightboard gets unplugged when the car is locked the alarm sounds. When not in use the towbar can be removed and stored under the boot floor (there is a space specifically for it in the Yeti). The bar locks to the car when in use, with a key.

    Any towbar fitter will do all of the above in one visit (although my experience is that they offer after-market wiring modules rather than OEM ones; this is why the fitter of my bar did not do the wiring, because he didn't have the right module available).

    Be wary of maximum noseweight as this is the maximum load the bar is rated to.

    The new Volvo XC60 we have has a factory-fitted electric 'bar - push a button, the bar swings out from under the bumper and you lift it into place where it locks itself. Push button again and the bar swings down and you push it back into its storage place. Plug in a trailer/lightboard and it automatically initiates a bulb check sequence, lighting each in turn that you then acknowledge to the car is completed OK.

    We use a Thule Euroway 3-bike rack and have a camping trailer.
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  • Thanks to all respondents. I have copied it all and it is there for reference when I get around to buying a towbar.

    Many thanks! :)
  • norvernrobnorvernrob Posts: 1,448
    We had a detachable swan neck fitted a few months ago. We didn’t bother with the dedicated electrics, just the standard ones. The car still recognises something is on the back as the towing sign on the dash flashes when you indicate to let you know the indicator on the rack is working.

    It cost £310 from a local company and has seen two trips to the Alps, totalling 3,200 miles over the last month with 4 bikes on and zero issues.
  • norvernrob wrote:
    We had a detachable swan neck fitted a few months ago. We didn’t bother with the dedicated electrics, just the standard ones. The car still recognises something is on the back as the towing sign on the dash flashes when you indicate to let you know the indicator on the rack is working.

    ........

    What car is that?
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